Broken Promise (Promise Falls #1), by Linwood Barclay (2015)

Broken Promise, by Linwood BarclayNewspaper journalist David Harwood finds himself back in Promise Falls, New York, working for the local rag. It’s a step down from the job he quit at a Boston newspaper in order to spend more time with his teen son Ethan. But when The Standard folds on David’s first day on the job, he and Ethan are forced to stay at his parents’ home, where his mother is increasingly forgetful and his father growing distant. Despite his desire to stay out of his parents’ lives, David is soon caught up in the family drama when he is sent to deliver a meal to his ailing young cousin Marla, who recently lost her baby during childbirth. Imagine David’s shock when he finds Marla with a babe in arms, delivered, she tells him, by an angel. Turns out the baby’s mother was savagely murdered, and Marla is now the prime suspect. There are other strange goings-on – strung-up squirrels, an abandoned Ferris wheel coming back to life, and a sexual predator on the college campus. Oh, and David’s dad is definitely troubled by something. The book spans only a few days, and is told from multiple perspectives. Attentive readers will spot the many clues and figure out the truth well ahead of David and the police. Linwood Barclay is a prolific mystery author but this is the first novel of his I’ve picked up. Barclay has created some interesting characters and plotlines for this first in a trilogy, leaving some tantalizing storylines unresolved. I can’t wait to find out more about what is troubling David’s father, and I fully expect (hope) Ethan to have a greater role in a future title. One quibble – I hope Barclay puts more energy into developing his temporary characters; in this first book, I found the evildoers rather one-dimensional, with one particularly spineless twit annoyingly key to the plot’s development. When it’s that important, Lin, put some effort into the motivation. Despite this, an enjoyable mystery that introduces fascinating characters and I’ll certainly be looking up Book 2.
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